Welcome to another edition of the Crispy Chicken Wing Movie Review where we watch and discuss the good, the bad, and the crispy of the entertainment world. Today, I'm reviewing the film inspired by Prince's magnum opus: Purple Rain.
Before viewing this film, the only thing I knew about Prince was that he had a penchant for all things purple and odd name changes. As a Twin Cities native, I somehow have managed never to see this film or hear the associated album. I know. I'm embarrassed, too. So, since I went into this movie completely blind and with no idea what to expect, I have a lot of reactions. Caution: spoilers ahead. First and foremost, what is this movie about? As a non-1980's viewer, I was very unfamiliar with the story of how Prince got his start. Upon further research post-viewing, the film is a fictionalized account of Prince's early rise as a rocker in Minneapolis. In the beginning, we are introduced to The Kid (played by Prince), his band "The Revolution" (portrayed by his real band members), and Appolonia, an aspiring singer and The Kid's love interest. The Revolution is one of three headliner acts at 1st Avenue, their chief rival being Morris Day and The Time. The Kid (much like Prince) is a gifted musician, but he is also arrogant. He believes that, musically, he can do no wrong. However, The Revolution isn't drawing in the crowds to 1st Avenue that they used to. Two of his bandmates, Wendy and Lisa, compose a new song for him, but he refuses to play it. This further jeopardizes the band's position as a headliner at 1st Avenue. It is also revealed that The Kid's personal life is just as troubled as his professional one. His parents are in an abusive relationship, with his father often acting violently toward his mother. Meanwhile, Morris is forming a new girl group in an effort to drive out The Revolution as a headliner at 1st Avenue, wooing Appolonia into being their lead singer. Appolonia excitedly tells The Kid that she finally got her big break, but The Kid doesn't take it well. In a jealous rage, he slaps Appolonia much in the same way his father had to his mother. It reveals that The Kid's father is a failed musician, who wasted his musical talent and instead turned to drugs and alcohol. The Kid performs a sexually charged ballad at 1st Avenue, knowing that Appolonia is in attendance. This humiliates her and further jeopardizes his career at 1st Avenue. He comes home to find that his father has attempted suicide, which he survives. As the paramedics leave, The Kid trashes the basement in a fit of rage, only to find a box full of sheet music that his father composed. While finally playing the tape that his bandmates made, he goes through the piles of sheet music and begins to compose the titular ballad "Purple Rain". The next day, The Kid surprises everyone with Purple Rain at 1st Avenue, giving his career the comeback it needed and reconciling with Appolonia. The credits roll to a montage of concert footage.
My biggest critique of the film is that it takes a lot of time for anything to actually happen. The first 20 minutes or so are made up largely of 80's-tastic concert footage, complete with shoulder pads and big hair. Granted, I'm trying to take into account that this film is a product of its time (and definitely before my time), and at a much slower pace than I'm accustomed to. To me, it felt more like a concert film with a loose plot sandwiched in between songs. Visually, this movie is a joy to watch. Having grown up in Minneapolis, I recognized many of the locations throughout the film, including 1st Avenue, the IDS Center, and the downtown Dayton's (now Macy's). Also, the film had copious amounts of purple, my favorite color. Musically, I can understand why Purple Rain was so revolutionary, particularly for its time. The film, and album, truly showcase Prince's range as a performer, from his wide vocal range to his ability to play multiple instruments. The lyrics themselves are a celebration of the light and dark in us. They deal with dualities such as love and lust, pleasure and pain. It also is an illustration of how passionate Prince was about his art. Overall, while the plot didn't do much for me, it still was a fun movie to watch, and definitely essential viewing for any fan of rock music. I give Purple Rain 3 and a half out of 5 chicken wings.
*Make sure to tune into The Crispy Soul Podcast, where we go more into depth on this topic, available on all major streaming apps.